What It’s Like to Visit Bangkok Right Now - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Randy Thanthong-Knight is a reporter in Bloomberg’s Bangkok bureau
When Thailand shut its borders to foreign visitors in March 2020, the city that was once the world's most visited felt as if it had lost its soul almost overnight. Without tourists, Bangkok simply didn’t feel like Bangkok anymore. But after nearly two years, the capital is finally opening up to the world again.
On Feb. 1, Thailand’s border reopened to vaccinated travelers from every country as part of the government's shift from a Covid-zero approach to considering the virus endemic. Travelers will need only a negative PCR lab result before arrival and agree to two more PCR tests after landing—one upon entry and another on their fifth day in Thailand. And while this isn’t the first time travelers have been allowed back in, it marks a strong departure from previous attempts to restart tourism, which required travelers to jump through such substantial hoops as quarantining for seven to 14 days or being confined to an island for a period of a week or more after their arrival.
The Thai government expects as many as 15 million foreign visitors this year. That’s a far cry from the nearly 40 million who came in 2019, the year before the pandemic, but it’s a lot more than last year’s 428,000 arrivals.
Read more: The Best and Worst Places to Be as We Learn to Live With Covid
As it stands, Thailand has vaccinated 70% of its residents, with about 20% of its total population having already received third or fourth shots. Bangkok has relaxed its Covid-19 protocols so that people can once again eat in restaurants, see movies, or enjoy nightlife—though you still need to strictly follow mask mandates. There hasn’t been an omicron surge like those in the U.S. or Europe, and health officials say new infections are within manageable levels.Although Bangkok locals are getting back out and about, making the city feel alive again, visitors will still find a city that’s quieter—but just as energetic—than they remember. The crowds will return, so 2022 is the time to enjoy the city while it’s relatively empty and help business owners get back on their feet.
The Dining Scene
Bangkok is known for a food scene that ranges from pad thai, a cheap but beloved national dish peddled from street stalls, to high-end restaurants with elaborate tasting menus. Across the spectrum they’ve been starved for business, not just because of the absence of diners from abroad but because domestic patrons were kept away through months of lockdowns and harsh restrictions. Those have been lifted. In Bangkok, there's no longer a capacity limit for indoor dining, but temperature checks will be required and, in most places, staff is required to be vaccinated and undergo regular Covid tests.
Some famous spots such as Bo.lan—known for classic Thai dishes that used ingredients such as fermented fish or banana blossoms–have closed down. But many local favorites were able to endure, including the almost impossible-to-book Sorn (22-course southern Thai cuisine), Sühring (contemporary German and European fare in a 1970s villa), and Jay Fai (Michelin-starred street food, with every dish is made by Jay Fai herself).
With the loosening of restrictions on travel and businesses, chefs and restaurateurs are again investing in new businesses: Among the most-anticipated 2022 openings will be Maison Dunand, a fine-dining restaurant and contemporary bistro by French chef Arnaud Dunand Sauthier, formerly of Le Normandie at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Scheduled to open this spring, it’s one of several restaurants that have chosen the Sathon area. Côte by Mauro Colagreco, which opened in Bangkok amid the pandemic, is located just off Sathon Road.
While plastic Covid partitions between spread-apart tables have disappeared in many cities, they can still be found in many Bangkok restaurants; outdoor dining is less common outside street stalls, given Bangkok’s heat. Famous vendors have taken a big hit but are bouncing back in some areas. The best neighborhood to walk around and sample options is Chinatown, where hundreds of vendors are all within walking distance and where food options range from Chinese and Thai food to seafood and desserts.
Culture Makes a Comeback
With few remaining restrictions, navigating the next phase of the pandemic in Bangkok is a game of choose-your-own-adventure.
If you’re still Covid-weary: It may sound unconventional to recommend Bangkok’s most iconic sights—the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun—to visitors who want to avoid crowds, but they’re never been so empty. (Besides, you can fully experience these places without ever stepping indoors.) The Museum Siam (a permanent exhibit on different aspects of “being Thai”), Museum of Contemporary Art (an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures by Thai artists), and open-air museum Ancient Siam (a 300-acre park filled with replicas of Thailand’s famous landmarks) are also a good place to absorb Thai art and culture. End the day at the recently opened Benjakitti Forest Park to enjoy city views at sunset. Converted from the lands of tobacco factories in Central Bangkok, this 180-acre park features wetlands, walking and biking trails, and thousands of trees.
If you need a gentle reentry: The sprawling complex of Chatuchak Market—the world’s largest weekend market—is a good place to start, whether you're hunting for clothes made by local designers, souvenirs, home goods and furniture, street food, or other cheap and rare finds. (Among the objects that recently caught our fancy were fabric face masks made from colorful Thai silk and handmade sedge tote bags.) Just time your visit in the morning; the narrow, maze-like aisles can get crowded in the afternoon. Head over to SookSiam, an indoor, floating market at IconSiam, to escape the heat and grab some street food or local products.
If you want to pretend the pandemic never happened: Head to the city’s several night entertainment districts, such as Silom (popular among LGBTQ and gay-friendly crowds), Soi Sukhumwit 11 (popular among expats and foreign visitors), or Thonglor (popular among middle- and upper-class Thais). Officially, bars and nightclubs are still banned from operating, but many have skirted the rules by offering more fulsome menus and calling themselves restaurants, while still serving copious amounts of alcohol and hiring DJs to blast electronica. As a precaution, some of these establishments will hand out rapid antigen tests and require a negative result before you enter.
How to Get Around
Bangkok may not be particularly walkable, but that shouldn’t prevent you from exploring al fresco. Tuk-tuks are synonymous with the city, a cultural experience unto themselves; be sure to negotiate prices before jumping in as they don’t use meters. And the city’s colorful canals and rivers have boats that offer a good way to avoid rush hour traffic while taking in the views; some even run on electric batteries these days.
That said, taxis are often the quickest way to get from Point A to Point B. Download Grab, the local version of Uber, to hail them easily—and be sure to mask up; drivers are diligent about wearing face coverings and demanding that their patrons do the same, and some still use plastic barriers for the back seat. A further option: The newly-expanded rapid transit system now connects the city’s two main airports and runs past all of its key attractions, from the Old Town palaces and temples to the bustling business and nightlife districts. As with taxis, masks are required at all times and a temperature check is done at each station before you enter the system.
When in Thailand, do as the Thais do: Wai is a Thai greeting whereby people put hands together at chest level and slightly bow their heads, and it’s a good way to minimize contact. Bangkok is a designated "blue province," along with many other popular tourist destinations such as Phuket and Chiang Mai. This means most restrictions have already been lifted to promote tourism activities. Still, masks are required at all times outside your place of residence. Fines for not wearing masks cost 20,000 baht (about $600). People here take mask wearing so seriously that TV news anchors wear them during live broadcasts.
Flights Are Delayed, Cancelled Due To Safety Reasons – Air Peace - INDEPENDENT
LAGOS – Air Peace has tendered apologies for its recent flight delays or cancellations, but the airline attributed these to safety issues.
This is as the airline stated that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as the regulator of the industry was very much alive to its regulatory duties, which is very evident in the almost 10 years of accident free commercial scheduled operations in Nigeria.
Air Peace in a statement signed by its management and made available to the media, said that no airline would deliberately delay or cancel flights and appealed to air travellers to take caution when flights are delayed or cancelled.
The statement hinted that as a responsible business concern, and in line with business ethics, it would normally reach out to dissatisfied customers at any given time to placate them irrespective of whether it was at fault or not, stressing that such gestures were never an admission of any wrongdoing, but a recognition that one’s customers needed to be happy.
The statement said: “We wish to reiterate our resolve to zero tolerance to unsafe operations. Air Peace will never succumb to deliberate negative commentaries, intimidation or blackmail, to fly when it is unsafe to do so and neither shall we, out of fear of negative publicity from anyone or quarter, take to the skies in order to look good when it is absolutely unsafe to do so.
“Flights are delayed as a result of many factors beyond the control of the airline and this includes, but not limited to bad weather, sudden aircraft malfunctioning and others.
“On the day in question, we had bad weather that led to diversion of flights and sudden aircraft breakdown during and in the middle of operations. We had flight delays in Sokoto, Akure, Ibadan and Kano occasioned by bad weather. These factors led to multiple delays and outright cancellations never wished by the Airline. It happens all over the world.”
The airline insisted that it would never endanger the lives of its innocent passengers and staff by flying an aircraft that suddenly develops snags nor fly when the weather was adjudged unsafe just to avoid deliberate negative publicity.
It declared that it would rather go out of business peacefully than to have blood in its hands and expressed regret for every inconvenience caused any of the passengers as a result of delayed operations.
It reiterated that it is a responsible corporate citizen of Nigeria and the world at large and has consistently demonstrated its love for the country and humanity in very unprecedented ways to be described as a vicious operator’ as it was described by a passenger recently.
EU to ease rules on COVID pass to remove hurdle for vaccine trials - REUTERS
BRUSSELS, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The European Commission proposed on Thursday a change to rules on COVID-19 certificates that would allow participants in vaccine trials to get a valid pass despite having received unapproved shots.
The move follows concerns raised by Germany's BioNTech (22UAy.DE) and Spain's Hipra about difficulties in enrolling volunteers for their COVID-19 vaccine trials because participants could face limitations to access public spaces and to travel.
The changes to the rules, which also extend by one year the validity of the EU COVID pass until the end of June 2023, will certify that EU countries can issue vaccination certificates to participants in trials. Some countries are already doing so.
The tweak however falls short of requiring EU countries to recognise these exceptional vaccine certificates when issued by other states in the bloc. As a result, when travelling across the 27-nation union, participants may be treated as not fully vaccinated and face restrictions.
A spokesman for the EU Commission said he expected EU countries will recognize the COVID passes issued to trial participants in other countries in the bloc.
The proposal must be adopted by EU lawmakers and governments.
COVID vaccination certificates are required in many EU countries to enter restaurants, gyms or cinemas. They are also necessary to travel across the bloc.
"A pharmaceutical company informed DE (Germany) that many participants would leave the clinical trial or refrain from participating because they would not be able to maintain their vaccination status with the not yet authorised specific booster dose," says an EU document with minutes of a meeting of EU health experts on Jan. 5.
An EU official said the company that raised concerns was BioNTech, which is conducting trials in Germany and other countries on a booster dose that would target the Alpha and Delta variants of the coronavirus.
BioNTech also launched last week with its U.S. partner Pfizer clinical trials for a vaccine adapted to Omicron. Those trials are taking place in the United States.
BioNTech said it would welcome changes allowing trial participants to have a valid COVID certificate.
Spanish drugmaker Hipra had raised similar concerns as BioNTech, a spokesperson said. The company plans to recruit 3,000 volunteers in Europe for the final phase of its clinical trials for a vaccine. read more
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio Additional reporting by Patricia Weiss in Frankfurt and Joan Faus in Barcelona Editing by Frances Kerry
Spain Set to Ditch Outdoor Masks Rule Next Week - BLOOMBERG
(Bloomberg) -- Spain’s government will suspend the obligation to wear face masks outdoors as soon as next week, Cadena Ser reported.
The order, which was reintroduced last December to stem the Omicron variant, will take effect by next Wednesday, the radio station said, citing people in the government it didn’t identify.
The news comes as the latest coronavirus wave ebbs in Spain, with the infection rate falling for a ninth day in a row to stand at 2,420 per 100,000 inhabitants as of Thursday. The step would add Spain to a growing list of European countries, including France and Sweden, that are loosening restrictions.
In January, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called on European governments to start considering the possibility that Covid-19 be treated as an endemic illness.
Nigeria, UAE truce: Air Peace to resume direct flights to Dubai March 1 - VANGUARD
Air Peace airline Friday said that it will resume direct scheduled flights to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, on March 1st, 2022.
This is coming after the lifting of flight restrictions between Nigeria and UAE following protracted covid-19 protocol and flight frequencies disagreement between the two countries.
Recall the two countries resolved the differences and restored flight frequencies to Nigeria’s Air Peace and UAE’s Emirates airline last week.
Air Peace has also announced that it is set to expand its West Coast presence by launching flight operations into Niamey, Niger, on February 25, 2022, as well as Kinshasha and Malabo in the first Quarter of this year .
The Management of the airline who made the revelation in a news release issued to journalists on Friday, February 4, 2022, stated that Lagos-Dubai-Lagos flights will operate three days weekly from any of its domestic routes through its Lagos hub.
“We are happy to inform the flying public that in tandem with our commitment to providing more flight connectivity and meeting the air travel needs of Nigerians, we are restarting our UAE operations, but with Dubai as the destination, and not Sharjah.”
” We abundantly appreciate the vital role played by the Nigerian Government in making this possible”, Air Peace asserted.
The airline further stated that before first quarter runs out, “we shall commence scheduled flights to Kinshasha in DR Congo and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, to enlarge our footprints in West Africa and offer the flying public more network options”, adding that Niamey flights will operate from Abuja and Kano on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays with the Hopper jets.
Air Peace has been operating scheduled commercial flights into the UAE since July, 2019. It had assured that it would continue to scale up its service delivery to surpass the expectations of air travelers, especially with the activation of its ambitious fleet modernization scheme and a renewed commitment to “unequalled customer experience.”
Air Peace has also been designated by the Federal Government to fly into other international destinations such as Guangzhou-China, Delhi-India, UK and Houston-US.
It currently operate 20 domestic routes, 6 regional routes and 2 international destinations while it has an increasing modern fleet of 34 aircraft, including five brand new E195-E2s and 5 Airbus 320s.
Nigerians In Egypt Pay $19.2m For Business Registration - INDEPENDENT
Nigerians and other foreign national doing business in Egypt are being charged $35,000 for business registration.
Lai Mohammed, Information and Culture Minister , who denounced the deposit of N19.2 million requested by the Egyptian authorities from foreigners, including Nigerians, to operate a commercial company in Egypt, during a recent meeting with the Nigerian community in Cairo. described the condition as unacceptable.
The meeting which was held on the sidelines of a bilateral discussion with the Africa Export Import Bank, Afreximbank, on how Nigeria can access funds to support its growing creative industry.
Alhaji Mohammed had directed some private sector stakeholders involved in digital change to Afreximbank to help them obtain funds to complete the private sector financially driven project.
Nura Rimi, the Nigerian ambassador to Egypt, while speaking at the meeting organised by the minister, said such a condition negates the unity that unites African countries.
He, therefore, promised to raise the matter with Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyema and other relevant bodies upon his return to Nigeria.
The minister also denounces the high number of Nigerian children who do not attend school in Egypt due to the language barrier and the unavailability of registered Nigerian schools in Cairo.
The Nigerian community had told the minister that the official language of education in Egypt is Arabic and that the few British- and American-run private schools in that country were exorbitant.
They said that no less than 7,000 Nigerian children in Egypt did not go to school and therefore, called for the construction of a Nigerian school in Cairo.
They also told the minister that because many of them were unable to pay the mandatory $35,000 deposit, their businesses had been labeled illegal while they were subject to regular harassment and arrest by Egyptian security officials.
The minister, however, called on the Nigerian community in Egypt to ignore most of the negatives stories about Nigeria, especially those on social media.
Air Peace resumes direct flights to Dubai - THE GUARDIAN
By Sulaimon Salau
Nigeria’s airline, Air Peace has revealed plans to resume direct flights to Dubai, United Arab Emirates on March 1, 2022.
This is as the airline is also set to expand its West Coast presence by launching flight operations into Niamey, Niger, on February 25, 2022, as well as Kinshasha and Malabo in Quarter 1, 2022.
The airline stated that Lagos-Dubai-Lagos flights would operate three days weekly from any of its domestic routes through its Lagos hub.
“We are happy to inform the flying public that in tandem with our commitment to providing more flight connectivity and meeting the air travel needs of Nigerians, we are restarting our UAE operations, but with Dubai as the destination, and not Sharjah. We appreciate the vital role played by the Nigerian government in making this possible,” Air Peace asserted.
The airline stated that before the first quarter runs out, “we shall commence scheduled flights to Kinshasha in DR Congo and Malabo in Equatorial Guinea, to enlarge our footprints in West Africa and offer the flying public more network options”, adding that Niamey flights will operate from Abuja and Kano on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays with the Hopper jets.
Air Peace has been operating scheduled commercial flights into the UAE since July, 2019, and added that it would continue to scale up its service delivery to surpass the expectations of air travelers, especially with the activation of its ambitious fleet modernisation scheme and a renewed commitment to unequalled customer experience.
The airline has also been designated by the Federal Government to fly into other international destinations such as Guangzhou, China; Delhi, India; UK and Houston, US.
UK house prices reach new record but cost of living crisis threatens growth - THE GUARDIAN UK
Bank of England’s interest rate rise and soaring household costs will hit affordability, says Halifax
UK house prices reached a record high in January according to Halifax, but the lender warned growth is likely to slow “considerably” this year as household finances come under increasing pressure.
The price of the average UK home reached a record high of £276,759 in January, up £24,500 over the year, and £37,500 higher than two years ago. However, house price growth slowed to just 0.3% in January, the smallest monthly increase since June last year, in a sign that the pandemic-fuelled boom could be fading.
“While the limited supply of new housing stock to the market will continue to provide some support to house prices, it remains likely that the rate of house price growth will slow considerably over the next year,” said Russell Galley, a managing director at Halifax.
Halifax, which has previously said that the housing market “defied expectations” last year, said affordability remains at historically low levels as price rises continue to outstrip growth in earnings.
Last week, the Bank of England raised interest rates for the second time in three months, as it sought to temper inflation, which is running at a 30-year high of 5.4%, with analysts expecting further rises later this year.
Homeowners are also facing a dramatic increase in living costs, including higher energy and food bills, rising phone and broadband charges, and increased national insurance payments from April.
“This situation is expected to become more acute in the short term as household budgets face even greater pressure from an increase in the cost of living and rising interest rates begin to feed through to mortgage rates,” said Galley. “Despite record levels of first-time buyers stepping on to the ladder last year, younger generations still face significant barriers to homeownership as deposit requirements remain challenging.”
In the final four months of last year house price growth ran at more than 1% each month, before January’s dip, said Halifax. House prices remain 9.7% up in average compared with January last year.
“Deposits will be key to the level of house price inflation this year,” said Anthony Codling, the chief executive of the property data site Twindig. “Those with a big deposit will be able to rise above the living and mortgage cost rises, those without will not unfortunately. The deposit poor will also find it harder to save as living costs rise.”
Halifax said Wales had the strongest start to the year of any nation or region, with annual house price inflation of 13.9% compared with last January, to an average of £205,253.
Northern Ireland house prices rose by an average of 10.2% to £170,982, while Scotland was up 8.9% year on year to £192,698, a dip on December.
In England, the north-west was once again the best-performing region, up 12% year on year to £213,200, with the second highest annual growth rate in the UK.
London remains the weakest-performing region with annual growth of 4.5% in January, a third monthly increase double the rate recorded in December and the strongest performance in a year.
The annual rate of growth in average UK house prices was unchanged in January at 9.7%.
Nigerians in Ukraine asked to remain calm, advised to register with Embassy amid Russia tensions - TVC NEWS
According to a statement issued in Abuja by Mr Gabriel Odu of NIDCOM Media, Public Relations and Protocol Unit, the Chairman/CEO Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Hon Abike Dabiri-Erewa, assured that the Nigerian Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine, is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and security of all Diaspora Nigerians in that country.
The NIDCOM Boss also encouraged Nigerian citizens in Ukraine to go to the Embassy’s website and complete the registration process.
Morocco reopens airspace after 2-month virus shutdown - AFP
Morocco reopened its airspace on Monday in a bid to breathe life into its crisis-hit tourism sector, two months after it cancelled commercial flights over coronavirus fears.
The North African kingdom's latest move was welcomed by tourism businesses who have suffered two lost years due to the pandemic, as well as by Moroccans stranded abroad.
Passengers heading to the kingdom will still need to show proof of vaccination against the Covid-19 illness and a negative PCR test within the past 48 hours, the government said in a statement.
On arrival, they will undergo further rapid tests and some will be chosen at random for another PCR test, it said.
It also warned tourists of "the possibility of an additional test at their hotel or place of residence 48 hours after their entry into the country", with positive cases obliged to self-isolate.
Morocco's vital tourism sector has been battered by the pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, with a 71 percent drop in arrivals in 2021 compared to 2019 and some eight billion euros in losses.
Authorities have vowed to launch a promotional campaign for "destination Morocco" and say they are working with airlines to relaunch the sector.
Rabat has also laid out a more than 180-million-euro campaign to keep jobs and firms in the sector on life support -- but many say the funds are not enough.